Typical Arts Barn events are visual arts exhibits, lectures and meetings with community relevance, theatrical presentations, concerts and films. It is hardly the place anyone associates with horses.
But the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Academy Award-winning classic Western, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” called for something completely different. And former Arts on the Green Community Arts Program Coordinator Monica Harwood was on the case.
Looking for a local link to things equine that would enhance the film event led her to the Cowgirls of Color, a three-year-old group of African American women from Maryland and D.C.
Harwood was captivated by the Upper Marlboro-based group’s mission: “Our goal is to break barriers by excelling in the non-traditional sport of rodeo, while sharing the cowgirl experience and lifestyle with our community in order to promote a sisterhood among all women of color, young adults and children.”
“They sounded like the perfect group for Gaithersburg, the city where ‘Character Counts!’” Harwood said. “And when I dug a little deeper and watched the videos about them, I was really impressed by their accomplishments. I also learned a little bit about the history of rodeo, and how historically, there used to be a lot more diversity.”
Cowgirl of Color Crystal Orr, one of two members who have joined the original team of four since its inception, explained that “it all started with (our first) trainer who had an idea of having an all-female rodeo team.” The trainer, she said, “handpicked the girls and started teaching everyone to ride formally.” He intended that the team compete in the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, which “celebrates and honors black cowboys and cowgirls and their contributions to building the West” with events in seven locations, including a championship rodeo for the D.C., Maryland and Virginia region.
The Cowgirls of Color took part in the 2016 Bill Pickett Rodeo Relay, and “since then, we have done individual events like barrel racing,” Orr said. After parting with their first trainer and taking some time off to buy their own horses, the women are preparing to emerge anew at the 2019 Bill Pickett event.
Excited about joining in the “Butch Cassidy” celebration, the Cowgirls plan to do a half-hour lasso demonstration prior to screening of the film, which, Orr said, all have seen “multiple times.”
To get into the proper spirit, audience members are encouraged to don cowboy hats and boots and visit the Wild West Pub, which will feature the North Market Pop Shop’s drinks, including sarsaparilla and sodas.
The Wild West Film and Brew Party begins at 6 p.m. with the opening of the Wild West Pub, followed by the Cowgirls of Color’s demonstration at 7 p.m. and the film screening at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 29 at the Arts Barn, 311 Kent Square Road.
The event is recommended for ages 17 and older. Tickets are $5 in advance, $8 on March 29. Call 301.258.6394.